New Facilities Management contract will increase wages

Employees' health insurance contributions will also rise

Saturday, January 20, 2007

A new five-year contract agreement reached Oct. 12 by University officials and union representatives for Facilities Management workers will provide across-the-board wage increases but also calls for increased contributions by workers to health insurance coverage.

The new agreement covers approximately 240 full-time unionized workers, who are represented by the United Service and Allied Workers of Rhode Island.

“Base wage scale increases vary based on the job classification in the first three years of the agreement from 0% to 3.25%,” wrote Michael Chapman, vice president of public affairs and University relations, in an e-mail to The Herald. “All classifications receive base wage scale increases of 3% in the 4th and 5th year of the agreement.”

However, the zero-percent increase applies only to certain classifications of Facilities Management workers who received a wage increase earlier this year, according to Karen McAninch, business agent for USAW-RI, who led negotiations for the union.

According to McAninch, every worker will receive a wage increase of at least 15.5 percent over the next five years, either as a result of the contract agreement reached last week or increases already granted.

In addition, some workers will see their pay increase an additional 4 percent because of a re-classification of certain jobs.

On top of these raises, there will be a one-time increase of $200 to the annual wages of all workers this January. That raise is intended to help offset employees’ increased health insurance contribution, which calls for them to pay higher pharmacy and emergency room co-payments. There will also be a 1-percent increase in employee premium contributions in each of the final four years of the contract.

The starting salary for custodians is currently $12.11 per hour, but higher-skilled workers within Facilities Management, such as carpenters and electricians, may receive $27 an hour or more, according to McAninch.

Both sides viewed the new terms as satisfactory. “The contract includes a competitive wage and benefits package that is fair, appropriate, equitable to others, fiscally responsible and consistent with the University’s commitment to remain an employer of choice,” Chapman wrote.

“I’m fairly happy with the agreement, and obviously our membership voted pretty overwhelmingly to confirm it,” McAninch said. Because the vote was decided by a show of hands, no exact numbers are available, but McAninch said “clearly a majority” of Facilities Management workers present voted in favor of the new contract.

Health insurance increases are, however, a point of concern for the union, McAninch said. “I’m always a little concerned about increases in health insurance costs,” she said. “In a perfect world I would love it if the health insurance co-pay didn’t go up, because that can potentially be a hardship for folks.”

Other contract items

The contract also includes the improvement of pensions, both McAninch and Chapman said.

In addition, the contract includes a safeguard for current employees that will protect them from having to work a new shift that starts at 11 p.m. and lasts until 7 a.m. This safeguard was necessary because some employees currently working from 4 a.m. to noon feared they would be forced to change to the new shift or risk losing their jobs, according to McAninch. Under the new contract, workers will be able to continue working the morning shift, but they might have to move to a new building. Those who wish to continue working in the same building may have to switch to a night shift to do so.

The new contract also stipulates that all weekend work performed in residence halls will be done by current employees, who will receive overtime pay. The University had proposed hiring part-time workers, who would not qualify for benefits, to fill such shifts, according to McAninch.

“We didn’t want to have to deal with people working 16 hours a week and receiving no benefits,” McAninch said.

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